Press Release No: 05/23
22 March 2023
Response from churches and religious communities to conflict were in focus at the EPP Working Group Intercultural and Religious Dialogue meeting in Vilnius, held on 22 March, during the visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Vilnius.
The meeting hosted by the Lithuanian government was significant for featuring intervention from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He affirmed the bond between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Lithuania, appreciating cooperation between state and religious organisations.
“The Bible teaches that love and peaceful co-existence among people are the keys to a fulfilling and Godly life,” he said. The Ecumenical Patriarch shared how the Bible “reminds us that our love for others is a reflection of our love for God, and that we cannot truly know Him without first demonstrating love and compassion towards our fellow human-beings.”
Ecumenical fellowship activated for Ukraine
At the meeting, CEC General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen highlighted churches’ response to the war in Ukraine. “We listened to the Ukrainian voices. We prayed together. We cried together. We activated our European fellowship of mutual encouragement,” he said.
“CEC conducted solidarity visits, organised prayers and conveyed to decision makers and civil servants in Brussels, the role and position of churches in the war,” added Sørensen.
He went on to say that “just about every member church of CEC has shared in receiving and accommodating refugees, fleeing from death and destruction. A massive task undertaken primarily by local churches and individual congregations.”
Sørensen also introduced CEC project Pathways to Peace focusing on Ukraine, promoting justice, reconciliation and peace. Through this project, the European church-fellowship engages in dialogue with European institutions, addressing crucial political concerns.
“Incredible capacity for compassion and love exists in human beings”
The Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė, particularly appreciated the role of religious communities in responding to the conflict. “The war in Ukraine has also brought to light the incredible capacity for compassion and love that exists in human beings,” she said.
Šimonytė stressed the significance of the belief that “acts of senseless cruelty and crimes against humanity are fundamentally incompatible with Christian ethics and values.”
The EPP meeting was organised by the Vice-Chair of the EPP Group Rasa Juknevičienė MEP, the government of Lithuania and the EPP Group Working Group Intercultural and Religious Dialogue.
Jan Olbrycht MEP, Vice-Chair of the EPP Group in the EP and Co-Chair of the EPP Working Group on Intercultural Relations and Interreligious Dialogue welcomed participants of the meeting.
CEC was also represented by Rev. Dr Darius Petkūnas of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, who contributed reflections on the topic. CEC’s former president His Eminence Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon was also present at the meeting.
For more information or an interview, please contact:
Conference of European Churches
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Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
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